The P4 lab at the National Biosafety Laboratory in China’s Wuhan city has been at the forefront of controversy since the outbreak of Covid-19.
Believe it or not, the epicentre of the novel coronavirus pandemic is still alive and kicking.
The P4 lab in Wuhan in China’s Hubei province has been at the forefront of controversy since the outbreak of Covid-19. Referred to as the ‘Wuhan virus’ by US President Donald Trump, Covid-19 was first detected at this very laboratory in December of 2019, if the Chinese government is to be believed.
Reports of this infection were first brought to notice of the world by Dr Li Wenliang, a Chinese ophthalmologist, through his Weibo posts. The whistleblower who tried to caution his colleagues at Wuhan’s City Central Hospital was pulled up by the police for ‘anti-national activities’.
The issue was magnified when the whistleblower doctor died of Covid-19 on February 6 of this year.
India Today’s OSINT team reviews the activities of Wuhan’s controversial P3 and P4 laboratories through the latest satellite images to determine their operational status. Satellite images clearly indicate that the P3 and P4 labs never halted operations but continued their experiments despite objections by the global community.
Wuhan Institute of Virology
The Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) was established in 1956 under the auspices of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). It is the only institute in China focusing exclusively on fundamental research in general virology.
The China Center for Virus Culture Collection (CCVCC), which is part of WIV, was officially designated as the National-Level Culture Collection Center by the National Health Commission of China. The CCVCC is the largest virus bank in Asia which supposedly preserves more than 1,500 virus strains.
However, pictures posted on the WIV site indicate totally callous handling of samples by staffers who do it often without eye or face protection.
National Biosafety Laboratory
The National Biosafety Laboratory founded in 2008 was operationalised at its present location in 2010. The two laboratories were approved to be fit to handle Biosafety Level-3 (BSL-3) experiments by the National Health Commission of China.
In 2012, satellite images revealed that the construction of a new laboratory had begun. This lab was completed in 2013, however, it was approved for Biosafety Level-4 (BSL-4) only in 2015.
The laboratories are popularly known as P4 and P3 labs, indicating the biosafety levels adopted by them.
Allegations of biological warfare experiments
The Washington Times was first to conclude with evidence from Radio Free Asia (RFA) that it was a biological warfare project that led to Covid-19 leaking from this P4 lab in Wuhan. Recent media reports from China also suggest that work on the vaccine and evaluations continued at these laboratories throughout the pandemic.
Major General Chen Wei, the PLA biological warfare expert who is also an epidemiologist and virologist, was flown in to take charge of the P4 lab from Yuan Zhiming in mid-January 2020. Changes such as these to the administration of WIV’s P4 lab hint at People’s Liberation Army (PLA) culpability in these experiments gone awry.
Lies caught through satellite imagery
The eye in the sky is an extremely important evidence provider in today’s world, especially when it concerns a secretive facility in China’s highly centralised controlled environment.
An interview of Yuan Zhiming in May indicates that he is probably back in his chair and trying to cover up for the lab’s shortcomings as alleged by various world leaders. Zhiming claimed that construction of the National Biosafety Laboratory which consists of two P3 and one P4 labs concluded only in 2015. However, satellite images clearly show that the P3 lab was operationalised in 2010 and the P4 lab was functional by as early as 2013.
The satellite images from February 25, 2020, show substantial clandestine vehicular movement near the P4 laboratory. The large convoy of buses, other small pick-up vans and cars could have been used to remove evidence from this laboratory.
It was rumoured in Western media that the P4 lab was closed after evidence was removed from the facility.
However, the latest satellite images from May 12, 2020, contradict these claims. The images show the movement of small vehicles at the laboratory premises despite the lockdown in China aimed to contain the novel coronavirus.
(Col Vinayak Bhat (Retd) is a consultant for India Today. A satellite imagery analyst, he served in the Indian Army for over 33 years)